How to Play Online Slots

Author Tom Wilson


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How to Play Online Slots

In recent years, the popularity of the online gambling industry was on the rise. Fast forward a few years later and, today, online casinos are just as popular as their brick-and-mortar counterparts. Undoubtedly, one of the biggest reasons for that is the popularity of video slots.

They are fun, exciting, and the best thing about them is how diverse they are — there are thousands and thousands of video slots out there.

While they are relatively simple to understand once you get the hang of it, the whole experience might be slightly overwhelming as there are numerous new things to pay attention to. For that reason, we have prepared a comprehensive and detailed guide about every aspect regarding video slots that will help you learn how to play video slots. With that said, let’s dig right in, shall we?

Playing Grid

The first thing that you will notice once you load into any video slot is its layout. This is generally known as the playing grid, and it is comprised of reels, rows of symbols, and paylines. Apart from bonus features, these three will often characterize the gameplay of a video slot.


Reels are the vertical lines that spin whenever you, well, click to spin the reels. Depending on the layout of the slot, they can have 3, 4, 5, or more rows of symbols. Usually, the playing grid is comprised of 3 or 5 reels and 3 to 4 rows of symbols. However, some video slots go as far as adding an extra playing grid, or they add a horizontal reel that is reserved for the special symbols.

While those types of video slots might seem a bit unusual, they are relatively easy to figure out and these additional game-design features don’t impact the gameplay all that much. However, if you are curious to figure out what they have to offer before you start playing any video slot, make sure to access its paytable — a menu that displays all the relevant information regarding that video slot.


Speaking of paytable menus, you should know that not all of them look the same. However, if you take a look at the screenshot that we’ve included below, you can notice that all the paylines of this particular slot are displayed in the top right corner of the screenshot, while the middle area covers the Avalanche feature. Don’t worry, we’ll make sure to cover these types of features as well throughout the text!

Paytable menus often come with multiple pages that you can navigate through. For example, the screenshot we included below is from the same video slot as the one included above. However, rather than mentioning multipliers and Avalanche features, this one covers all the symbols included in this video slot and shows their values. In other words, it displays how much you will win for landing 3, 4, or 5 of them on a single payline.


Depending on the number of reels and paylines, as well as a software provider’s design, you will end up with a title that has a different number of paylines. Simply put, think of them as imaginary lines that reward you each time you land a winning combination on them.

There are two types of paylines: single and multi. Single ones are straight and cover the same row of symbols on every payline, while the multi ones can be diagonal or just go in a zigzag across the playing grid.

Depending on the design of a video slot, paylines may be fixed or adjustable. This means that you will be able to pick the number of paylines yourself, based on your preference.

One thing to note is that, while more paylines means more ways to win, this is often offset by adding more symbols or reels into the game to even the playing field. In other words, more paylines doesn’t actually mean you will win more often — this depends on the hit frequency and the RTP, which we will cover later on in the article.


One of the simplest things about playing video slots is betting. In some video slots, your bet might be displayed as a correlation between the number of coins you are betting per line and the size of your bet.

However, to make things simple, virtually every modern-day video slot clearly displays your final bet, so you won’t have to worry about unknowingly betting too much.

The most important thing to know about betting is that, in some cases, the size of your bet may slightly boost your chances to land a winning combination or it can make you eligible to land a Jackpot. For example, some video slots come with multiple jackpots in them, but in order to have a chance at winning the most lucrative ones, you will have to raise your bet.

Progressive Slots

Video slots can be split into several different categories. Most often, this is done by dividing them by the number of reels they have. However, one particular category of video slots is known as the Progressive Slots.

Video slots that have progressive jackpots built into them are called progressive slots.

There are several types of jackpots and they can be shared across other slots of the same name, other slots of the same casino, or other progressive video slots of the same provider. Regardless of the type of the progressive jackpot, whenever you or someone else places a bet playing a progressive video slot, a small portion of their bet is added to the shared pool which is then displayed as the size of the progressive jackpot.

As we’ve mentioned earlier, if you are betting long enough, you will be eligible to potentially win this shared jackpot that can sometimes reach even millions of dollars. If you are curious to find out the exact value of the progressive Jackpot that the video slot you’re playing has, just look around the user interface.


Now that you know the basics, all that is left to do before you can master video slots is to get yourself familiar with the special symbols and bonus features.

Every video slot has different symbols, and the main difference among them is their value. Land 3, 4, or 5 of them on a payline and the size of your win will depend on the number of symbols you landed, as well as their value.

However, the symbols that you need to pay attention to are the special symbols, like the Scatters and Wild symbols.

Wild Symbols

Most often, Wild symbols are used to substitute for other symbols. This means that, if you are to land two matching symbols and the Wild on a payline, the Wild will take the form of those two symbols and be used to form a winning combination.

Keep in mind that, while Wild symbols are worth more than the basic symbols, they only substitute for the said basic symbols, and not the Bonus symbols or Scatters.

Scatter Symbols

Scatters, also known as Bonus Symbols, are most often used to trigger bonus features. Usually, you will trigger a bonus feature by landing 3, 4, or 5 Scatters anywhere on the reels. However, since every slot is unique in its own way, it would be best to check the paytable for details so that you know which feature you are triggering and how to do it.

Bonus Features

Finally, we have come to everyone’s favourite part, the part that makes video slots truly exciting — the bonus features.

Random Bonus Features

When it comes to bonus features, a lot of them are triggered randomly at the beginning of each spin. Since you don’t have much control over these, the best you can do is just kick back, relax, and claim your rewards.

Some other bonus features, however, are activated once you finish your spin. If you didn’t land a winning combination, a bonus feature might trigger, and you will receive a free re-spin.

In some video slots, you can also trigger a bonus feature at the end of your spin, but only after you land a winning combination. These are often known as the avalanche or the landslide bonus features. The symbols that formed the winning combination will then disappear from the reels, and new ones will slide into their place, allowing you to win again. In some cases, every new win will be subjected to a multiplier reward.


These types of bonuses do precisely as the name suggests — they multiply your total win. Quite often, multipliers are active only during bonus features. For example, when you trigger a Free Spins feature, it might come with a multiplier. This means that every time you land a winning combination during the bonus feature, that win will be subjected to a multiplier stated in the slots’ paytables.

Sometimes, multipliers are a part of the avalanche feature. Take a look at one of the most popular NetEnt’s video slots, Gonzo’s Quest, for example.

Each time you land a winning combination, the avalanche feature will trigger, and the multiplier will increase by one. In other words, even a small lucky streak may end up being highly profitable.

Free Spins

One of the most popular features among the video slot enthusiasts is the Free Spins. Quite often, you will receive a specific number of free spins based on the number of Scatters you landed to trigger the feature.

The game will then automatically play out the number of free spins you won, without you having to bet anything. What’s more, during some Free Spins, you will be able to re-trigger the feature, earning even more free spins and prolonging the feature.

Gamble Features

Apart from the regular bonus features, you might often stumble upon various gamble features. Sometimes, they are as straightforward as trying to guess the colour or the suit of the next card. Other times, they might come in the form of a mini-game where you might find yourself picking between claiming your winnings or risking them for a much higher profit.

Regardless of the design of this feature, you will always have an option to collect what you’ve earned or gamble with it if you wish to earn more.


RTP is one of the most common terms often used among the slot players, and it stands for Return to Player. It is used to determine how much a player is expected to get in return on average. For example, if you are playing a video slot that has an RTP of 96% and you bet $100, you are expected to win back $96 in the long run.

However, this number evens out after hundreds or thousands of spins. If you play, let’s say, only five spins, you might end up either losing or winning all five of them. Still, many players prefer playing video slots that are around 95.5%, 96% or higher.

Hit Frequency and Volatility

Hit frequency refers to how often you are likely to land a winning combination. However, this doesn’t always translate to how much you are likely to earn, because, in some cases, you will end up winning the amount that you initially bet or even less than that. In other words, winning a lot is not always profitable.

For that reason, many players prefer playing video slots of different volatility. Some highly volatile slots might put you on long dry runs, and you might have dozens of spins without seeing a single win. However, at the same time, once you win, you might recover all that you’ve spent up until that point and even earn a lot more on top of it.

Final Words

As you can see, the process is very simple. Pick a slot, set your bet, spin the reels, and enjoy. Now that you know everything about video slots, all that’s left for you to do is pick a title that seems interesting and start playing.

Before you do, you can try having a few test runs and familiarise yourself with the games a bit more. Many websites out there offer you to play video slots for fun, and you won’t have to spend a dime learning the ropes.

One thing to note is that video slot software providers always strive to create new and exciting titles, so there will always be new things to learn about video slots. However, by understanding how the majority of video slots work, you won’t have any issues figuring out any of the newest titles that are about to hit the market.

Author Tom Wilson

Chief editor and creator, Tom drives the direction of with the goal to provide the best and most honest resource for online gambling enthusiasts in Canada